Gross efficiency and cycling performance: a brief review

Simon A Jobson, James G Hopker, Thomas Korff, Louis Passfield


Efficiency, the ratio of work generated to the total metabolic energy cost, has been suggested to be a key determinant of endurance cycling performance. The purpose of this brief review is to evaluate the influence of gross efficiency on cycling power output and to consider whether or not gross efficiency can be modified. In a re-analysis of data from five separate studies, variation in gross efficiency explained ~30% of the variation in power output during cycling time-trials. Whilst other variables, notably VO2max and lactate threshold, have been shown to explain more of the variance in cycling power output, these results confirm the important influence of gross efficiency. Case study, cross-sectional, longitudinal, and intervention research designs have all been used to demonstrate that exercise training can enhance gross efficiency. Whilst improvements have been seen with a wide range of training types (endurance, strength, altitude), it would appear that high intensity training is the most potent stimulus for changes in gross efficiency. In addition to physiological adaptations, gross efficiency might also be improved through biomechanical adaptations. However, ‘intuitive’ technique and equipment adjustments may not always be effective. For example, whilst ‘pedalling in circles’ allows pedalling to become mechanically more effective, this technique does not result in short term improvements in gross efficiency.


cycle training; biomechanics; pedalling; pedaling

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Journal of Science and Cycling (JSC). eISSN: 2254-7053. Cycling Research Center, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Carretera Jaén s/n Km. 426.5. Pulianas-Granada CP 18197 (Pol. ASORIA).